Saturday, October 10, 2009

Middle East Rumblings

While the world grimly awaits the expected sudden unleashing of Israeli’s Air Force on Iranian nuclear facilities, the real groundwork of equally monumental proportions were the recent exchanges between US President Obama and Israeli’s PM, Bibi Netanyahu. Two historic speeches, made by the duo in the month of June, are central to the issue of peace and security in the Middle East. These speeches might as well go down as among the most important speeches of our generation. Here we present some analyses.

Barack Obama’s Speech
Obama’s speech given at the Cairo University on June 4 left most of the official Arab world reeling with enthusiasm. (The same cannot be said for the Jews though!) Americans and most of the rest of the world praised the speech, basically for its political sagacity and craftiness. It requires much astituteness to even attempt to officially broach most of the topics discussed by Obama, right there on Arab soil. The zenith of the praises and adulation certainly must be the remarks by Newsweek editor, Evan Thomas, who declared on MSNBC: "I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above the world, he's sort of God."
In the speech, meant to be frank and direct, Obama in his usual fashion, presented his impressive credentials – Moslem background, marginalized minority, etc. Thereafter he quickly began to shower platitudes on Islam which he praised for carrying "the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment." He further praised "innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed." Most of these statements were later to be challenged by commentators as gross inaccurate exaggerations (for example see Spencer at
Of course, the kernel of the speech was to seek “a new beginning” in the relationship between the US and the Islamic world; but invariably, it would appear that the gift Obama was offering in exchange for this new relationship was the destiny of the nation Israel. In one of the later-to-be most widely criticized portions of his speech, Obama equated the Holocaust to Palestinian "dislocation." While seemingly countering the silly ideas popularized by people like Iran’s Ahmadinejhad that the holocaust- in which about 6 million Jews were brutally murdered by Hitler- did not actually happen, Obama went ahead to suggest that not only did the event happen, it was the main justification for Israel to have a place in their ancestral homeland. (The Jewish response to this is mentioned under Bibi’s speech below)
It is understandable that Obama should try to be as even-handed and polite as the occasion demanded; but one wonders if he could not, given his noted oratory and communication prowess, have mentioned at least some of the serious on-going human-rights abuse cases notoriously going on in the Arab world. Such as those being meted out especially to Egyptian Christian Copts, not to talk of the non-Arabs in Darfur. Amazingly, Obama even managed to create the opposite impression – praising the “misunderstood” moslems for their tolerance. And that, in the face of the general unhidden rash religious intolerance from most of the Moslem world where conversion from Islam remains a capital crime! It is hard to say whether Obama himself believes all the sweet things he was saying; or was only using them as a strategy of irony to get the Islamic world thinking!
Whatever be the case, Obama revealed his [or at least his speech writers] closer affinity to Islam than Christianity in his use of words. For instance he described Arabia as the place where Islam was first “revealed” (rather than “founded” – as a non-muslim would most likely have said); and he used the Islamic expression “Peace be unto him”, not only for the Islamic founding prophet, but also for the Lord Jesus Christ. No Christian, would of course have used the equivalent of “may His soul rest in peace” for a living Saviour!
An Islamic response making non-sense of most of Obama’s unspoken hopes and exposing the raw nerves he was trying to glibly gloss over, was made by fellow American, Abu Mansour al-Amriki. A Moslem who left the US to join an Al Qaeda-linked group in Somalia, Al-Amriki in a tape released on July 9 and posted on several jihadist web sites, strongly condemned his President’s efforts to seek “a new beginning” with the Muslim world, mocking Obama's “magic of charisma” and warning of more attacks against U.S. interests. FoxNews, carried a transcript:
“Despite the fact that you have been ... forced [by Muslim fighters] to at least pretend to extend your hand in peace to the Muslims, we cannot and shall not extend our hands. . Rather, we shall extend to you our swords, until you leave our lands.”
Continuing in the 20-minute audiotape, Al-Amriki said: “Let this not come as a surprise to those who are mesmerized by Obama’s speech in Cairo, our positions ... have not changed in the least. ……A Muslim doesn’t look to peace, security, education, work, or the love of any other number of things as his ultimate goals…,” All these coming from a fellow American? Clearly, Obama is overlooking some basic facts!

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech(es)

On Sunday June 14, at the Bar-Ilan University, Tel Aviv, Netanyahu gave an official response to Obama’s Cairo speech. (The complete, unedited text of the speech can be found here
In the speech, Netanyahu, following Obama’s approach, went all out to declare Israel’s desire and unwavering commitment to peace. Alluding in particular to the scripture of swords being turned to plowshare (Isa. 2:4), he said it was Jewish prophets that gave the world a vision of global end-time peace.
Addressing the Arabs directly he said at one place: I turn to all Arab leaders tonight and I say: “Let us meet. Let us speak of peace and let us make peace. I am ready to meet with you at any time. I am willing to go to Damascus, to Riyadh, to Beirut, to any place- including Jerusalem…” In another place he said: “I turn to you, our Palestinian neighbors, ..and I say: Let’s begin negotiations immediately without preconditions.”.
What then is the stumbling block to peace? According to Netanyahu many are merely suggesting simplistic solutions, by overlooking the real problems. In his words, “the simple truth is that the root of the conflict was, and remains, the refusal to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own, in their historic homeland”. Again he said: “Those who think that the continued enmity toward Israel is a product of our presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, (are) confusing cause and consequence.”
He then catalogued how the Arabs had rejected the UN partition plan of 1947 mandating the creation of two separate states - A Jewish State and an Arab state. This is exactly what people like Barack Obama are clamouring for today as the only solution! Has anything changed since 1947? Netanyahu went on to cite various efforts of the Arabs since 1948 to annihilate the state of Israel, despite repeated concessions and appeasement by Israel. In emotional words, he said:
“I know the face of war. I have experienced battle. I lost close friends, I lost a brother. I have seen the pain of bereaved families. I do not want war. No one in Israel wants war.”
What then are Bibi’s solution towards getting a Peace Agreement? Yes, two economically prospering contiguous states indeed, but for Israel’s security, the new Palestinian state must be demilitarized. Furthermore, just as “tiny Israel (had) successfully absorbed tens of thousands of Jewish refugees who left their homes and belongings in Arab countries”, the Arab refugees (who had voluntarily fled Israel in expectation that the attacking Arab forces were about overrunning the tiny state - now fuelling the “right-of-return” issue) must be absorbed by the Arab world.
Netanyahu used the issue of Judea and Samaria to debunk notions (e.g. by Obama) that Israel’s right to the land derived from Hitler’s holocaust. Rather he affirmed Israel’s connection with the land (“historic homeland”) since the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – thousands of years ago. Based on this, as he later affirmed at another event, even while Judea and Samaria might end up being conceded to the new Palestinian State, it does not mean that the land must be cleansed of Jewish presence! Afterall Arabs also live and flourish in Israel, even as citizens! The implication of this position is that while no new settlements would be established in the disputed region, developments would not be frozen in existing settlements. And of course, Jerusalem would have to remain the undivided capital of the Jewish state.
Addressing the Knesset on the occasion of his 100th day in office, Netanyahu, for the sake of US President Obama, again clearly summarized his position:
“I told President Obama when I was in Washington that if we could agree on the substance, then the terminology would not pose a problem. And here is the substance that I now state clearly:
“If we receive this guarantee regarding demilitirization and Israel’s security needs, and if the Palestinians recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people, then we will be ready in a future peace agreement to reach a solution where a demilitarized Palestinian state exists alongside the Jewish state. ”
The Bible makes it clear that after the rapture of the Church (see Rom 11:25), Israel will be left on planet earth as sole witness to the only true God, for a space of seven years (which 7 years have remained unfulfilled from the prophesied “70 weeks of years”, following the introduction of the Church some 2,000 years ago). These final seven years (see Dan. 9:27) would be ushered in by a 7 year Peace Agreement between Israel and the Arabs, to be brokered by the antichrist. Surely these long-awaited days are finally upon us!

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